Meet Chloé Zhao, The First Asian Woman to Win Best Director in the Oscars

Chloé Zhao just made Oscar history as the first woman of color and the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for best director at the 93rd Academy Awards for her 2020 film “Nomadland,” which also won the award for Best Picture.

With all eyes on her for this groundbreaking victory, it’s time we get to know a little more about who she is.

Born as Zhao Ting to a steel-company manager for a dad and a hospital worker for a mom, she described herself to Vogue as “a rebellious teen, lazy at school” who “drew manga, wrote fan fiction, and went to movies.” It was her love for Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” that ultimately led her to want to shoot her own films.

She was sent to boarding school in the UK at age 15, though she did not know a word of English. With a dream to live in the US, she eventually enrolled at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts before ending up in New York City where she worked a number of jobs before applying to NYU’s graduate film school.

The Chinese filmmaker is known primarily for her work in independent films in the US. Her debut feature film, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” (2015), premiered at Sundance Film Festival and earned critical acclaim as well as a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

Two years later, her second feature film, “The Rider” (2017), received nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and Best Director.

Evidently, she managed to sustain her success with “Nomadland,” starring Best Actress winner Frances McDormand who plays an unemployed van-dwelling woman who leaves her hometown after her husband dies to travel around the United States.

Aside from Academy Awards, the film also earned Zhao the Best Director recognition at the Golden Globe Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and British Academy Film Awards, also making her the first Asian woman to win the category at each of the awards shows. She also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Zhao is only the second woman to ever win the coveted award in the Oscars, with Kathryn Bigelow being the first back in 2010 for her film “Hurt Locker.”

“This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold out to the goodness in themselves and to hold out to the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that,” Zhao said in her acceptance speech. “You inspire me to keep going.”

Zhao is also set to release her first blockbuster film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe titled “Eternals,” which is scheduled for release in November 2021. And we definitely can’t wait for it!

(ALSO READ: MCU’s First Openly Gay Character Will Be Introduced in ‘The Eternals’)

Have you seen any of her films? Let us know in the comments below!


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